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For those of you not up on the latest hip party game for people in their 20s and 30s, let me introduce you to Cards Against Humanity. Essentially a group form of multiple choice Mad Libs, this game features a bunch of black cards, which contain sentences with key nouns left out, and a bunch of white cards, which contain nouns or noun phrases. Each player draws a hand of 10 white cards, and then everyone gets a chance to read a black card aloud. After a card is read, players choose from their hand the white card that they think best completes the sentence. These cards are distributed to the reader anonymously. The reader reads the selections aloud and selects the one they like best. The player whose white card is chosen wins the black card. All players draw another white card to keep their hand up to 10, and the role of reading black cards passes to the next player.

In concept, Cards Against Humanity is the sort of game I love. There's no competition and no real winning or losing. The game emphasizes creativity and amusement instead of points and strategy. It's the type of game that grows exponentially more hilarious with more and more players, and it sparks very interesting side conversations when people ask or joke about each other's choices.

In practice, however, I find Cards Against Humanity very problematic in terms of content and framing. The black cards, with their framing sentences, feature mostly topical references familiar to people in their 20s and 30s. Examples include: "What does Prince insist on being included in his dressing room?" and "What does Obama do to unwind?" Fine, no big deal.

It's the white noun cards, though, that drive me up the wall. If they contained only generically amusing phrases such as "murder most foul," "inappropriate yodeling" and "licking things to claim them as your own," I wouldn't object. But no, those cards are a distinct minority. The white cards focus heavily on topics apparently considered taboo or difficult to discuss by the white, straight, cis, male, bourgeois creator, including people of color ["brown people," "the hard-working Mexican"], people with disabilities ["amputees," "Stephen Hawking talking dirty," "a robust Mongoloid," "a spastic nerd," "the profoundly handicapped"], queer people ["the gays," "praying the gay away"], fat people ["feeding Rosie O'Donnell," "the morbidly obese," "home video of Oprah sobbing into a Lean Cuisine"], gender-nonconforming people ["passable transvestites"], genocide ["inappropriately timed Holocaust jokes," "helplessly giggling at the mention of Hutus and Tutsis"], Muslims ["Allah [praise be unto him!]," "72 virgins"], poor people ["poor people," "homeless people"], old people ["Grandma," "hospice care"], child abuse ["child abuse"], rape ["surprise sex"], paraphilias ["German dungeon porn"] and crap ["fiery poops"]. I could go on, but then I'd be quoting the entire suite of white cards.

Cards Against Humanity glancingly acknowledges the problematic structure of its game by billing its audience as "horrible people." "It's as despicable and awkward as you and your friends," crows the main page of the game's Web site. Of course, below this description are various cool publications and people praising the game, so clearly the game's creators see being "despicable and awkward" as a coveted, desirable status. They quote condemnations from the Chicago Tribune ["absurd"], The Economist ["unforgivable"] and NPR ["bad"] in contrast with praise from INC ["hilarious"] and Boing Boing ["funny"]. Thus they associate criticism with old-fashioned, conservative, humorless media outlets full of old people and appreciation with the young, hip, cool crowd. To be "despicable and awkward," then, is ultimately to be cool. 

What does Cards Against Humanity's concept of coolness -- that is, their idea of rebranded despicability qua awesomeness -- entail? Basically it means laughing at anyone who's not a straight, white, cis, bourgeois, hipster dude [like the creator]. Don't try to tell me that, because the game has white cards like "white privilege," it actually critiques those who are discomfited by the concept. No, it doesn't, not when the majority of cards make marginalized people who lack privilege into punchline after punchline after punchline.

If you're still not convinced, let me break it down to you with a single example: the white card that has the phrase "passable transvestites." There is so much wrong with this card that it's hard to know where to start. Well, to begin with, clearly someone thought this phrase worthy of inclusion into the deck of white cards, meaning that someone perceived it as shocking, racy, funny and potentially ridiculous. So what's shocking, racy and entertaining about "passable transvestites?" Yeah, a gender nonconforming person who goes out in public en femme so that they avoid being clocked always makes me laugh. The stats on trans and other gender nonconforming people being harassed, assaulted and killed provide comic relief every time I read them. The outdated language on this white card -- the vexed concept of "passable," coupled with the no-longer-used, clinical-sounding "transvestite" -- signals that the game's creators are hung up on old-fashioned binaries of gender presentation, the transgression of which they find hilarious and pathetic, instead of a matter of life and death.

I can make the same points about Cards Against Humanity's treatment of people with disabilities, the prejudice against whom can be summed up in a single white card: "Stephen Hawking talking dirty." Yup, yup, of course, people who are neuroatypical, emotionally atypical and physically atypical to the extent that society doesn't really know how to accommodate them -- they're comedy gold! I mean, really -- can you imagine a man with paralysis talking dirty? First of all, he'd be doing it with the help of his computer, which is inherently hilarious, you know, because he can't really talk. Second of all, it would imply that he, despite being unable to move parts of his body, has active sexual desires and interests, which is a shock, because no paralyzed person has ever had sexual interests and agency before -- ever! They're just...like... wheelchair-bound automatons. Yeah, "the profoundly handicapped" are a gas all right. Yet again, Cards Against Humanity's decision to employee the passe and offensive term "handicapped" shows that they're not interested in mocking prejudice, but in perpetuating it.

EDIT: As rosettanettle points out in a comment on my LJ crosspost, the creator of Cards Against Humanity expressed regret for the "passable transvestites" white card, which is now no longer included in decks. This does not, however, negate any of my points. If anything, it reinforces them, since the creator's expression of "regret," which came only because he was called on his transphobia, comes across as less a regret of treasuring bigoted tenets and more a regret at getting caught. I also suspect his theatrical Tumblr photoset of him lighting the card on fire of being a self-aggrandizing performance so that he may be showered with praise about what an enlightened ally he is. Why do straight, cis, white, middle-class dudes think they deserve extra special plaudits for meeting minimum standards of decency? "Despicable," indeed.
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And now, for something more amusing, let's turn to John Scalzi's blog entry, "Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is," which begins:

I’ve been thinking of a way to explain to straight white men how life works for them, without invoking the dreaded word “privilege,” to which they react like vampires being fed a garlic tart at high noon.

The entry itself goes on to analogize "straight white male" privilege as the easiest level setting in a video game. I sense some implicit Oppression Olympics going on in his analogy, so I can't recommend it unreservedly, but that opening comparison sure is hilarious.
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Thanks to Racialicious, I just watched episode 1 of Awkward Black Girl. It's a first-person Web-based comedy series with short eps about ABG's awkward social life. Issa Rae, the creator, director, writer and star, is hilarious. Watch her express her frustrations by secretly writing rap lyrics in her bedroom. There's 1 season of 12 short eps out so far.
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I just looked up impetus on dictionary.com to verify that the plural is impetuses. [It is.] For a quote that used the word in a sentence, the dictionary provided this shining gem by the horrendous bilgewhacker D.H. Lawrence:

"While the white man keeps the impetus of his own proud, onward march, the dark races will yield and serve, perforce. But let the white man once have a misgiving about his own leadership, and the dark races will at once attack him, to pull him down into the old gulfs."

Apparently this comes from a 1920s novel by Lawrence entitled The Plumed Serpent. Stupid condescending crap from the main character Kate.

Maybe the dictionary.com quote generator should exclude bigoted tripe, huh?

P.S. The title of this entry comes from Yo, Is this Racist?, a hilarious [and ableist] Q&A blog.
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Via Shakesville, this "editorial" is not only sexist, misogynist and essentialist, but it's also completely incoherent. This is my favorite sentence, primarily because it makes no sense:

Anyone serious about thinking through the role of women in today’s civilization is doing worthless work unless they take the controversies on the right hand in hand with the unsuccessfully suppressed tensions on the opposite side of the spectrum, where disagreements far more volatile in their profundity roil respectable liberalism.

How does bilge like this even get published?? This is some of the worst writing I've ever come across in my life, and I've seen some doozies.
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On this thread on Dances With Fat about LGBT ally George Takei's fat phobia, commenter Saffie brings a possible retort for people who stick their noses in and offer bigoted, shaming comments about her fat body:

My favorite response?
  • “Oh, honey, I’m so sorry for your loss.”
  • “What loss?”
  • “Seems like your parents weren’t around to teach you manners. I just thought you must have lost them at a very young age.”

Recognizing that not everyone is raised by their parents and it's not appropriate to bring up parental death to strangers who may have had parents who died, I would change this conversation as follows:
  • Bigot: [stupid comment]
  • Person: I'm so sorry for your loss.
  • Bigot: Bzuh?
  • Person: You seem to have tragically lost your manners. My condolences.

HAH HAH HAH HAH!
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This comment from Nathan Lane on his life as a gay man reminds me so much of Mark:

"I was born in 1956. I'm one of those old-fashioned homosexuals, not one of those new-fangled ones who are born joining parades."

Of course, I think Lane was being more facetious than Mark would be if Mark said such a thing.

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Colbert Report parody of that stupid National Organization for Marriage anti-marriage ad.
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The American Family Association is selling a DVD about queer people becoming a visible part of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. It's an alarmist piece of tripe of blithering homophobia that harps about the nefariousness of gay invasions. Commenters from people on Shakesville amuse me greatly, especially the alternative gay agendas. Beware the ROY G. BIV skyscrapers! Boogedy boogedy!



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Paul Constant over at The Stranger writes a scathing review of Noelle Oxenhandler's memoir The Wishing Year. While incisively sarcastic, Constant's review succeeds because he backs up his poor opinion of the book with examples of its failings. My favorite sentence:

Oxenhandler is exceedingly relieved that the African-American syrup advertisement has absolved Nicholas of generations of slave-owning guilt, and she goes about the happy work of intervening in his life.

Maybe, if I hone my rapier-like wit enough, I can be that vicious in a book review and get away with it. Until then, I will enjoy others' excoriations of trash.

Favorite dismissal of an atrocious book, attributed to Dorothy Parker:

This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.

modernwizard: (Default)
Oh, what a dreadful dilemma the aging hipster parents, in their 40s and expecting kids for the first time, face. They have spent so much time creating exquisite, exorbitant interiors, and they now must change their plans. 

Must their curtains woven from mermaid farts and moonbeams succumb to the slovenly onslaughts of partly formed humans who cannot properly wield spoons? 

Will the throne of imported unicorn horns, garnished in a tastefully pseudo-ethnic pattern with laser-etched bees' knees, be relegated to the garage before a tiny being with the gait of a drunken landlubber trying to set up a folding chair on the deck of a ship in a typhoon careens into its corner and bumps its head?

Who gives a shit?

The New York Times Home & Garden section, with its earnest examination of the heart-wrenching dilemmas faced by 0.0000000000000000003% of the U.S. population, cannot be taken seriously.  Most people make a compromise between their new kids and the fabulously decorated, kid-unfriendly house they lived in before kids. I'm sure there's some wailing and gnashing of teeth as certain beloved objects are discarded or removed, but it's not a tragic turning point of life worthy of some Catholic Sacrament of Banished Knickknacks. By characterizing this compromise as some sort of undefeatable tension in the lives of new hoity-toity parents, the New York Times makes the interviewees come off as self-absorbed idiots who not-so-secretly like their Louis Quatorze chairs more than their kids. 

BITE THE WAX TADPOLE, MORONS!!
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More Big Gay Sketch Show. You could insert any characters of your choice, though. The sound in the background was me falling out of my chair in laughter. 
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Lesbian phone sex, courtesy of the Big Gay Sketch Comedy. Please watch the woman who makes the call; her practically boneless wriggling shows what a gifted physical comedian she is. Watch her feet....

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I've been cracking up over this round-up of gay humor from the Daily Show, especially the clip where Jon Stewart is talking to Stephen Colbert about Prince Charles' alleged gay experience, and there's a banana involved. I'm surprised Stephen Colbert didn't choke on it, since he was laughing so hard. The best part is the trouble he has with the "Whoever kills the fewest grouse..." line. It's still hilarious the 45th time.
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For 30 or 40 minutes every month, you can crack up over the BBC's Ouch! podcast, which features actor Mat Fraser and comedian Liz Carr hosting a talk and comedy show about disabilities. The two interview celebrities, banter sarcastically together and run a hysterical quiz show called Vegetable, Vegetable or Vegetable?, where they try to guess a caller's disability based on yes/no questions. All archives are available on the site, not only sound files, but also transcripts, so you can read them if you wish. Go to the general Ouch! Web site to find columnists, blogs, Q&As and other fun stuff. Thanks to  melopoeia  for the rec.  

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